In some ways, much of art is about relationships: a relationship with the chosen medium or form, with oneself, the possible rapport with the audience or viewer, even the ongoing relationships with other artists. Since 2005, poet Terri Witek and visual artist Cyriaco Lopes have been deepening their creative connection with a series of ongoing collaborations utilizing video, performance, photography, drawing and artists’ books. Lopes compares his collaboration with Witek as “a bit like having a band.”
“We are friends. We do things together that we would not do in our own solo works,” says Lopes. “There is a moment in which the duo has another head — a third mind — that is not the sum of who we are per se, but its own will.”
The result of Lopes and Witek’s recent joint endeavors is featured at their Currents/Correntes installation at the Crisp-Ellert Art Museum (CEAM) at Flagler College. During the opening reception, both artists will be present for a performative talk.
Currents/Correntes is an interdisciplinary collaboration combining an immersive environment with sound, video and photographs. Essentially, the exhibit is a collection of Lopes’ photographs of water mounted on acrylic and printed on fabric, which are presented with a soundscape of Witek’s conceptual, experimental poems.
“I have been aware of Cyriaco and Terri’s work ever since I started my tenure at the museum in 2010,” says Julie Dickover, director of CEAM. “At that time, they did a sound and video installation in the Markland House, titled A Shelter on King’s Road. I was very drawn to their aesthetic, and I thought CEAM a perfect place to give them free rein.”
The pair met about a decade ago at Stetson University, where they would meet weekly to talk about art and poetry. Witek still lives in DeLand and directs the Sullivan Creative Writing Program at Stetson University. Lopes has since moved to New York City, where he is a professor at John Jay College at City University of New York.
“We are both from water cities. He’s from Rio de Janeiro, and I grew up on Lake Erie,” says Witek. “I think growing up in a city where you look out over water invokes a certain dreaminess. Poetry and art walk together — often in an ancient city like St. Augustine by a still more ancient sea.”
The origin of Currents/Correntes lies in Witek’s book Exit Island (2012), where in order to embody the mythical meeting of Ariadne and Dionysus in Naxos, one of the events alluded to in the book, Lopes printed an image of the sea of Rio de Janeiro on a large piece of fabric and imagined it as being part of the delirious dance of the god with the princess.
“I remember this past summer when we sat for an improvised lunch in Crete. We sat outside under an immense tree that the locals say is thousands of years old,” says Lopes. “We had a long view as we were at the top of a mountain and behind us there was a deep valley covered in olive trees. It led quite naturally to the formulation of a new series of works. It was so spontaneous that it was as if we were eating the idea for lunch, as it came almost completely ready for us. It is the third mind, the one that processes the world in the background of our minds.
“St. Augustine is such a rich place,” Lopes continues. “It is great to have an opportunity to return and to install our labyrinth of waters there. Those are images of many waters from our trips abroad and in the United States. It is only fitting that they will be shown for the first time on those shores where people arrived first to what would be the United States one day.”